And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.” James 1:6a
It was over in a flash. Well, most everyone has heard of Johnny Cash and most everyone has heard his number one hit, “Ring of Fire.” Well, Johnny had his ring and I had my “zone of fire.” Twenty-five or so years ago my brother decided he would come up and visit with my wife and I. It was a big deal because he is from the deep south and well, for him to cross the Mason-Dixon Line was pretty much a miracle. When we were making plans, he mentioned that he wanted to go pheasant hunting. Well, I checked into it and found that there was a “bird farm” about an hour from where we lived.
A “bird farm” is a business that owes a ton of land and then raises birds to be released into the wild for the purpose of hunting. When the day came, we drove up to the bird farm. When we got there, it was me, him and a couple of other guys, we checked in and the guy said that we would have a dog hunt with us. That was strange since we didn’t pay for one but hey, ok. We headed out with the dog and the guide. The way this works is you form a line, straight across, and about fifteen to twenty feet apart. Then the dog works the area in front of you as you move forward. If the dog goes on point (which means he found a bird) then the guide scares up the bird and someone, or a lot of someones, shoot. So we hunted, and hunted and hunted. The bottom line? I was pretty sure there wasn’t a bird within a hundred miles of that place. The dog never went on point.
From there things went downhill. The owner came and said that he had accidentally given us the dog and we had to give him up…so we did. That meant we were totally on our own. We would walk through the weeds saying, “Here birdie, birdie.” Ok, not really but we did walk through the field just trying to scare up a bird. It was beginning to look like a continuation of the time with the dog when it happened. As we walked through the field, and with no warning, we scared up a bird. It was a beautiful male pheasant and he just exploded off the ground about thirty feet in front of me and slightly to my right.
I can’t tell you how fast this all happened. He leapt into the air, I raised my bird gun and fired. It really was over in a flash and it was a perfect shot. Just like that the bird was down and everyone was excited. I had shot pheasant once or twice before but honestly it was a great shot…all except one thing. Not once, not for a millisecond did I think about my “zone of fire.” Basically, the zone of fire is the predetermined area where it is safe for you to fire your weapon. It obviously includes where there aren’t any people. Now, it all worked out just fine. I was within my zone of fire, but it was not because I intentionally did it—it was just luck.
While I don’t personally believe in luck, I do believe in a God who takes care of us…even when we are just a little—careless. Truth be known, if that bird was a little closer to the line of guys I could have wounded one of my friends and that would have been unbelievably tragic. When you have a weapon, you need to be sharp, you need to be focused, and you need to be careful. You must be always be aware of your zone of fire.
That truth doesn’t just apply to weapons, you know. We need to apply it anytime we are with people. You see, we carry a lethal weapon with us all the time. That would be our mouth. And if we are not careful, a situation may come up, and before even thinking, boom…someone is wounded or hurt. And the crazy part? It can happen in a flash just like pheasant exploding off the ground in front of me. In a moment of time, we can fire from the mouth that will leave a lasting, and sometimes permanent scar, on the heart of someone around us. We just need to be careful.
James, the half-brother of Jesus said that the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. We all know the stories of the wildfires in the west—the grave property damage and the tragic loss of life. And James says in the same way the tongue can cause that kind of damage in the lives of people. What can we do to prevent that? The same thing when we are using our weapons around others. We need to be sharp, we need to be focused, and we need to be careful. Now, I have a friend who is a weapons expert and a great hunter. If he had been there that day, he would have given us a safety briefing which would have included our “zone of fire.”
We have an expert with our tongues too. He is our Dearest Daddy and because He made us, He knows the destructive power of the tongue and can help us control it. As we walk through each day, He will be by our side and He will guide us and help us. He will whisper the guidance we need to be safe and not hurt others. He is a guide that can be trusted and depended on. After all, He’s got this.